The End of the Sky

-

Sierra Elita's Five Goals in Life:

To make it through highschool, then move to Antarctica, or some remote place no one would ever look for her.

To make sure no one (besides Tara) ever finds out about her secret crush on Ethan Simmons.

To escape the grasp of Mrs. Sormin, her evil science teacher.

To learn how to snap her fingers. (Pathetic, but true nonetheless.)

…To save the dragons of SecondLayer?

Chapter One: The Drama Queen's First Mistake

Rain pattered relentlessly upon the window pane, rivulets cascading down in fluctuating patterns. Sierra glanced dully at the downpour outside, pulling on her left sock as a prolonged yawn escaped her. A morning person, she definitely was not.

"Sierra, time for school!" her mother called out from the first floor.

Sierra groaned something in reply, then trudged into the bathroom and pulled the brush through her hair and brushed her teeth. She looked like hell- but, then again, she always looked awful when she didn't get enough sleep.

Grabbing her backpack and an umbrella, she took the steps to the door two at a time, then opened it. She started running outside, trying in mid-stride to open the umbrella, but the switch wouldn't budge. Cursing, she abandoned the attempt and sprinted up beside her friend and dodged under her umbrella.

Tara glanced at her, trying to hide a smile. "Late again?" she asked disapprovingly.

Sierra shrugged, letting her backpack fall onto the wet pavement of the sidewalk.

Tara frowned at the offending object. "It's going to get drenched, you know. If your lab report for Sormin is wet, she probably won't take it."

When Sierra stared at her friend blankly, Tara's mouth fell open. "Don't tell me you forgot."

Still nothing.

"Oh my god. Sierra, that's worth ten percent of our grade!"

Sierra shrugged, a sigh escaping her. "Not much I can do about it now, Tair."

Ever since second grade when they had first met, Tara had been like a second mom to her. And not in the caring, cookie-baking sense either. Tara constantly pestered Sierra about homework, grades, social status, college, and anything that she was doing 'less than adequate' in. After a while, it got kind of frustrating. Sierra didn't even need to worry about anything anymore- Tara did all the worrying for her.

Strangely enough, the fact that the two were opposites was probably a big part of why they became friends in the first place. Even their physical appearances couldn't have been any more different. Tara was pale, petite, and short with light red-orange hair and pale green eyes.

Sierra, on the other hand, was taller, probably average height for the age of seventeen, with dark brown hair people often mistook for black and eyes so dark blue that the pupil was hardly evident.

Despite all of their differences, or perhaps because of them, the two had instantly become friends.

Throughout Sierra's thoughts, Tara was still babbling.

"-would never act so irresponsibly. Mrs. Sormin is going to have you marin-"

However, just what Mrs. Sormin would do to her, Sierra would never find out. At that moment the bus pulled around the corner and eased to a stop, the air whooshing out of the door as it was released to let in the wet and miserable students.

The bus driver was an elderly man perhaps in his late forties whose main fault, in Sierra's eyes, was his love of country music. It annoyed (or amused, depending on the person) the occupants of the bus to no end when he blasted Shania Twain from his small radio and attempted to sing along to I Feel Like a Woman. Whether this was of his own whim or to amuse the students, Sierra didn't know. Nor did she care to.

The students filed in through the narrow entrance, Sierra and Tara shoved toward the back of the line. By a stroke of luck, Sierra had managed to skip ahead a bit so she was just in front of Tara. She grinned as she practically bounced into their regular seat in back and immediately scooted over towards the window seat.

"I hate aisle seats," Tara complained, slumping her shoulders miserably against the back of then seat when she had plopped down beside Sierra.

Sierra, grinning, playfully shoved her. "So do I, and you always get the window seat, Tair. Deal with it."

Tara mumbled something inaudible under her breath, then lifted her backpack from the floor onto her lap. Sierra, still smiling, did the same, gazing steadily at her friend. Tara refused to meet her gaze as she stared out the window.

The landscape outside was pretty; leaves of every hue drifted lazily about, and the sun cast melancholy rays on the ground below.

"Hey Tair?" Sierra murmured, leaning back against the seat and drawing her knees up on the one in front.

The redhead grunted, still not facing her.

"Do you know what play we're going to audition for today?" Sierra asked, biting down on her lip to keep from grinning. Immediately, Tara brightened, sitting up straighter and turning towards Sierra. The one true way to get Tara to talk was through drama.

Tara and Sierra both had drama class together after lunch. That day they were going to try out for the school play by reading some lines in front of the class while paired with a partner. It promised to be... interesting, at least.

"Well," she began, smirking, "I would have told you, if you hadn't had stolen the window seat."

Sierra rolled her eyes. "Tara, you are aware that your maturity has yet to exceed that of a four-year-old boy obsessed with underwear?"

Tara merely smirked, seeming unfazed by the comment. "Still not talking," she sang, drawing out the last word.

Sighing in desperation, Sierra slid her attention from her friend to the rest of the bus. It was fairly a-typical for a morning school bus. Most of the kids were either half-dead and using their CD players as their life-support, engaged in unenthusiastic conversation, or scribbling down answers as fast as they could. All fairly routine Thursday morning behavior.

Her examination of the bus residents complete, Sierra let her gaze drift lazily toward the window, her heart beat quickening slightly. Any moment now... she thought, hardly daring to breathe. This was what she lived for in the mornings, the one reason for rejecting her mother's offers of being able to sleep in and be driven to school.

Him.

She saw the bus long before she saw the number, as it had pulled right up beside them, as it usually did. But still, she knew it was his. True, she was rather obsessive about looking for him each morning, but she didn't stalk him or anything. At least, not yet.

Sierra felt Tara's gaze on her, but didn't turn around, instead pretending to be interested in the finger-design someone had made on the sheen of water vapor coating the window.

Rain was still falling from the sky.

Twenty minutes later the door to the bus opened again, students wearily climbing off the steps and onto the sidewalk beside the school. Sierra and Tara were among the last to get off of the bus.

Tara was being unusually quiet, only responding short answers to any of Sierra's attempts to start conversations. So they walked along to the large door of the school in silence, both caught up in their own thoughts.

"Sierra!" a voice called behind them, and Sierra turned, a grin lighting up her features.

"Cade!" she said with a smile, running up to him and enveloping him in a hug.

The brunette boy laughed, returning the hug. "Hello to you too."

Sierra pulled back, grinning. "Well, we haven't seen you in a week!" she said with a childish pout. It was true; Cade frequently went on business trips with his father, since his dad was a movie director. His parents were divorced, so one week every two months he went to live with his dad wherever the movie was being produced.

His face adopted a serious expression, and he nodded gravely. "A tragedy, I'm sure."

Sierra laughed, punching him in the arm. "Are you mocking me?" she asked with a dramatic gasp.

Cade's dark green eyes looked noticeably shifty for a moment, then he grinned. "Moi? Never."

Sierra shook her head in playful exasperation, taking hold of her friend's arm and pulling him along into the school. Just then, she noticed Tara was waiting for them just inside the door. Sierra smiled, gesturing for her friend to come join them. "Come on Tair, let's head to homeroom."

Tara looked cranky, but she joined them after a moment's hesitation.

"Hey, Tara," Cade greeted cheerfully as she fell into step with them.

"Oh… hey," Tara replied distantly with a forced smile. She and Cade had never exactly been the best of friends.

"How are your mornings going so far, ladies?" Cade asked.

Sierra grimaced and opened her mouth to reply, but Tara answered before she could.

"Horrible. First, it started raining. I hate the rain! Then, Sierra arrives to the bus late again, without an umbrella, and without the report for Sormin. Then we get on the bus, and Sierra steals the window seat!" Tara finished her dramatic rant with a glare in her friend's direction.

Cade looked over at Sierra, arching his left eyebrow in surprise. "You didn't do Sormin's report? You have guts. I didn't even forget it and I've been away for the past week. Sucks for you."

Sierra stuck her tongue out at him. "Thanks a lot for your support," she said with slight smile. "And for your information, Tara, I didn't steal the window seat. I just got there first."

Tara's green eyes flashed and her face flushed with anger. Sierra stared at her, surprised and a little apprehensive for what would come next. "The reason I want the window seat, Sierra, is so I can actually look out the window to see the scenery. Not to stare at some bus and hope to see a glimpse of Ethan Simmons! You think you're so special, just because you're too 'cool' to do your work, and you think you deserve a guy that already has a girlfriend!" Tara burst out, none too quietly either.

Sierra's mouth fell open in shock. No. She did not just say that. To her horror, she found that eyes were beginning to sting. She saw everything through a stark sheen; Tara's face softening, the horror of what she had just said dawning on her face; and Cade, studying her with an enigmatic expression.

Not being able to stand it any longer, Sierra bolted, angrily dashing her sleeve across her eyes.

Things only became worse after that. Homeroom was a nightmare; at the beginning Tara kept sending Sierra pleading glances, but soon she remembered her pride and ignored her altogether.

Cade was in a different homeroom; the only classes Sierra had in common with him were lunch and Drama. So with her two best friends so far out of reach, she sat in the corner of the room, staring out the window at the rain.

She had first period in Mrs. Sormin's class, which was a nightmare in itself. The whole period was spent breaking into partners and revising any mistakes on the lab reports everyone was supposed to have. Sierra was the only one who seemed to have forgotten, so she spent the entire class at her desk, staring down at the laminated top and tying to ignore the conversation between Tara and Maura Cranford. Maura was the school gossip who was, coincidentally, dating Ethan.

Sierra felt queasiness settle in her throat. What if Tara told Maura about Sierra's crush on Ethan? Feeling slightly light-headed, she glanced back at Tara and Maura to see them staring straight at her. Tara flushed slightly and averted her eyes, but Maura sneered at her. "Take a picture... it lasts longer," she whispered venomously, then flipped her blond hair away from her face.

Feeling her face heat, Sierra turned back towards her desk, glaring at the surface and wishing she had laser vision. Or that the floor would swallow her up. Either or both would be perfectly fine.

To escape would be bliss.

AN:New story. It's for a challenge at the ficathon! Check out the link at my profile if you're interested. This is only the first chapter- it will be continued!

Anyway, here's a copy of the challenge I was given:

Challenge #12:

Genre: Fantasy/romance/adventure

Rating: Anything

Likes: Dragons! Romance and magic and lots of humor, too.

Dislikes: Clichés, lack of dragons.

Words/phrases to use: "How many times do I have to tell you? I'm not cool enough to be a nerd! I'm like...a nerd wannabe."; "I wish that car would just...RELAX." (Although fantasy 'car' should probably be changed to 'cart' or 'horse' or something.); "Did you know that strawberries are an aphrodisiac? So is chocolate. So if you eat strawberries and chocolate you'll be like...ultra horny."